American kitsch: drive-in restaurants

Monday, July 21, 2014

There is a drive-in restaurant near my home called The Kiltie. It operates only during the summer season and is a rare type of restaurant in the USA, mainly because it’s nostalgic, perhaps even a dinosaur (something that is outdated or has become obsolete because of failure to adapt to changing circumstances).

At a drive-in restaurant, customers park their vehicles and are served by carhops (waitresses or waiters) who walk out to the cars to take food orders (some carhops do this on roller skates). The food is brought out on aluminum trays and clipped onto car windows. Drive-in menus normally consist of burgers, fries, sodas, and ice cream, and diners remain parked while they eat.

Don’t be mistaken to think that a drive-in restaurant is a drive-through restaurant. A drive-through restaurant doesn’t encourage diners to linger in their cars to eat and they aren’t old or nostalgic in any way. They operate to keep cars moving from the ordering window to the pay and pick-up window, where customers drive away and take their food with them.

Drive-ins are much more fun. The Kiltie, for example, was built by a Scottish businessman in the late 1940s and it hasn’t changed very much over the years. The carhops still wear plaid skirts (a kilt is a Scottish skirt), the menu is the same, and the ambience takes you back to the 1950s and 60s when drive-ins were at their height of popularity. That was a time when more people owned cars and gasoline prices were low so people were encouraged to drive and enjoy the roads.

If you visit the USA, I encourage you to find a drive-in restaurant to truly enjoy a nostalgic American experience.

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